The Cabinet deploys its first hazardous waste policy
The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved the country’s first-ever National Hazardous Waste Management Policy, 2022, hoping the Center and provinces would finalize a framework for implementing the policy’s National Action Plan (NAP) in the three months so that the country does not become a dumping ground for dangerous disposals.
Climate Change Minister, Senator Sherry Rehman, said the cabinet approved the strengthening of the classification, transparency, institutional and implementation frameworks of the NAP and a stricter governance infrastructure for waste regulations. dangerous within the country and at its international borders.
The decision was taken as Pakistan produces 30 million tonnes of waste annually in addition to importing 80,000 tonnes of bulk waste annually from all over the world, which causes environmental and health problems and contaminates surface waters and groundwater.
Read also : Pandemic-related hazardous medical waste is piling up
“Before Pakistan became a dumping ground for our own and the world’s hazardous waste, the government went ahead and developed a comprehensive national hazardous waste management policy,” the climate change minister said during a briefing. a press briefing held after the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Prime Minister’s Advisor for Kashmir and GB Qamar Zaman Kaira among others shared other key decisions taken at the cabinet meeting including the approval of the visa regime for Afghanistan, the housing program for Kashmir refugees and an increase in the Hajj quota.
Waste management policy
Calling the endorsement of the policy a milestone, the climate change minister said the implementation of the policy would help protect people’s health and the country’s environment.
“Mismanagement of hazardous waste has become a serious challenge for Pakistan,” Sherry said, adding that “our country has imported all kinds of bulk waste from different parts of the world with an average annual tonnage of 80,000.”
“If we are unable to manage our storage of hazardous waste and its proper recycling, our own 30 million tonnes of waste each year without proper disposal will contaminate both our surface water and groundwater and may also become a source of dangerous soil pollution,” fears the Minister.
She noted that the country’s few and far-off landfills were generally at capacity and could not afford more landfills.
The minister observed that the government had drawn up a long-awaited policy, saying that “the country must take the management of waste seriously, separate it and track it, instead of the unscientific and unregulated way in which it has been treated. over the years”.
Read also : Hospital waste dumped in the open on the road
“The collection, treatment and disposal of waste has caused significant damage to human health and the environment.”
The senator said the policy promotes a life cycle approach to managing hazardous waste from generation to disposal in a way that does not harm the environment.
Moreover, as Pakistan moves towards an industry-driven economy, she said, there was a greater likelihood of hazardous waste dumping and mismanagement.
“These wastes have the potential to cause serious harm due to improper storage, transport, treatment or disposal operations,” the minister said, adding that studies have suggested that illegal or poor waste management is the leading cause of soil and groundwater contamination worldwide.
Sherry, while referring to electronic waste (e-waste) – electronic products approaching the end of their useful life – said that they contain recognized hazardous substances that can be directly released or generated after disposal or during the process of recycling.
“They pose life-threatening health risks to local communities who illegally import the waste,” she said, adding “there is a risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, namely low birth weight , total birth defects and effects on the baby’s central nervous system.”
Additionally, she says, e-waste can cause respiratory problems, irritate skin or eyes, and cause headaches or nausea. “Pakistan has illegal dumps strewn in all its cities near residential areas which pose a serious health risk to its citizens,” she said.
Read also : Sustainable solid waste management
Emphasizing a united front with federal and provincial governments working together to protect the environment and people, the minister said consultations with the provinces and the AJK and GB have been completed and a specialized leadership to hazardous waste management would be created within the ministry to implement the policy. .
She stressed the importance of respecting the Basel, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Minamata conventions. She said that without the proper channel, awareness or policy in place, the country would face a hazardous waste problem that would be too difficult to control.
The prime minister hailed the minister’s efforts for environmental protection, saying he would soon convene a special meeting on environmental protection where provincial governments would also be invited.
Cabinet approves visa regime for Afghanistan
Meanwhile, the Federal Cabinet, through the Afghan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Cell, reviewed and approved the visa regime for Afghanistan after a meeting of a supreme committee of NADRA, the Board of Investment (BOI ) and the Foreign Office.
Following the approval, the Minister of Information said that visa applications received from Afghanistan at foreign offices and embassies in Pakistan will be processed on the basis of current nationality and passport instead of country of origin. origin.
The information minister said the federal cabinet had included subcategories within the work visa category to maximize trade with Afghanistan. In the category, she said, the proposal to introduce drivers, carriers and assistants into the online visa system was approved.
Read also : Prime Minister Shehbaz approves new transit visas for Afghans
Multiple-entry visas based on a six-month period will be issued within 48 hours, Marriyum said, adding that the Interior Ministry may extend it for up to a year.
The cabinet exempted drivers, transporters and helpers from obtaining a letter of recommendation from the BOI and from registering the SECP, saying NADRA had been tasked with ensuring that changes were made immediately. made to the online system.
The prime minister has also formed a cabinet committee to continue monitoring the business facilitation process and to ensure that visa requirements for patients coming from Afghanistan for medical reasons have been simplified.
Kashmiri Refugee Housing Program
Prime Minister’s adviser for Kashmir and GB Qamar Zaman Kaira said the cabinet had given its approval for the release of 3.1 billion rupees for the first phase of construction of 1,314 houses for the Kashmiri refugees, who had migrated to Pakistan from illegally occupied Indian Jammu and Kashmir due to fighting some 30 years ago.
Kaira said the housing scheme was set up for 8,000 Kashmiri families, adding that the AJK government should provide land for the purpose.
Hajj Quota Increase
The cabinet approved amendments to the 2022 Hajj policy on the recommendation of the Ministry of Religious Affairs following problems encountered in the ongoing operations for the Hajj.
Under these amendments and on the instructions of the Peshawar High Court, 188 pending cases from the private sector and the quota of 2,000 additional pilgrims received from Saudi Arabia have been incorporated into the government’s Hajj programme. The number of government quotas has increased from 32,453 to 34,641.
The cabinet was briefed on vacancies in the federal services regarding the Balochistan quota before approving that ministries and divisions would ensure that recruitment on the provincial quota was merit-based and domiciliary rights of the region are not violated.
He said an NOC would be obtained from the Manpower Division for recruitment on the Balochistan quota within two weeks and advertisements would be posted for all vacancies.
Attack on Polio Team Condemned
The cabinet condemned the attack on the polio team in Tank district, which resulted in the death of a polio officer and two constables accompanying the team in North Waziristan.
The information minister said the prime minister had ordered the interior minister to submit a report to the cabinet at the next meeting.